Here is my personal and unscientific review of the class after the basic and intermediate course. Mind you, I do this for fun, not because there is a need for me to do it or because I feel the drive to become a near-fluent speaker of Taiwanese (I won’t even be here long enough to reach that stage for Guoyu let alone Taiwanese ).
I think I’ve learned quite a lot. Listening to a Taiwanese radio feature the other day, I could make out a couple of words in every sentence (words, not syllables). However, I don’t think I’ve ever managed (dared) to utter a word in Taiwanese to anybody else but class mates and teacher. Part of this is certainly due to the fact that, after the first couple of weeks, I’ve never again done any review of vocabulary, grammar etc. after class Also due to that is the fact that it took me about two months to really feel that I was actually learning something. Now, slowly, I feel that I’m actually able to remember simple every-day sentences (which up to now, I’ve never used and probably might have forgotten by the time I come back from Germany ). I’m sure that diligent students can pick up much more than I did and would be able to have simple conversations in Taiwanese by now, not only using the vocabulary in the book but also the related stuff the teacher mentioned during class. Which isn’t bad for 16 weeks resp. 48 lessons (at least, I feel so).
The class, held completely in Chinese/Guoyu/Mandarin apart from some English terms the teacher might throw in for explanation, certainly did my Guoyu some good. We often enough ended up discussing, in a mix of Guoyu and Taiwanese, cultural and geographical differences, from the kind of fruit that grow in Germany, Indonesia etc. to customs and manners. Besides, I hadn’t read that much Chinese in a while. It definitely helped with getting more accustomed to Traditional characters. And as much as I only read the romanization of the Taiwanese in the text book in the beginning, I’m getting to the stage where just reading romanization confuses me, and I prefer to see the characters they use for Taiwanese as well. No need for me to discuss the way of romanization or the characters they use for Taiwanese in the text book here, this is just my personal impression.
The teacher tries to accustom Western students. But nonetheless, most of the class is very “Chinese”: reading aloud, repeating … I guess we made it hard for him, too: whenever he asked us to do “free talk”, most of us would just shut up and wait for Ax to say something. Most of the students were Asians, wives of Taiwanese husbands, people who want to do business here … The group was rather small: about six for the first course, and then just us three Forumosans for the second one. Of course, the small size of the class is a definite advantage.
I skipped out a few times when I was too busy to spend my lunch time walking to class. But that never was a big disadvantage. As long as I managed to be there at least every second time, I’d always be able to pick up what I had missed.
All in all, I liked the class, and I definitely want to go on when I come back from my summer vacation. I never was a big self- studyer , I definitely prefer the strict schedule of an organized class. We’re now halfway through the book, so we still have some material to work on.
For anybody who’s interested: next beginner classes start on July 14.